E-mart signs deal with Jeju Soju

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E-mart signs deal with Jeju Soju

Korea’s top discount chain E-mart is on the verge of entering the vibrant soju market.

The retailer, which is operated by Shinsegae Group, said Thursday it has inked a provisional contract with the Jeju Island-based distillery Jeju Soju.

After going over additional details and carrying out due diligence on the company, E-mart said it is planning to sign the final deal soon.

“We decided to accept the request first made by Jeju Soju, counting high on its possibility of being able to target foreign markets based on the clean image that Jeju Island has,” said Choi Byung-min, manager of Shinsegae communications.

Jeju Soju is a local maker and seller of soju, the most popular type of Korean liquor, established in 2011. It sells two brands under its name: Sandorong and Gopdeullak.

The distillery launched with 2.5 billion won ($2.2 million), and yearly sales for 2015 were 140 million won.

But the brand has been lacking followers even on the island itself, rivaled by strong competitors like Hallasan and Chamisul.

Shinsegae has said its first objective for the company is to strengthen its status on Jeju.

“Jeju Soju takes up about only 1 percent of the local soju market,” Choi said. “Some industry insiders think that our entrance into the domestic soju market will cause some drastic change in the market landscape, but we are looking more toward foreign markets, such as through original equipment manufacturing for large retailers in America, Japan and more.”

Considering that Jeju is already a popular tourist destination for foreigners, E-mart is also aiming to foster its soon-to-be acquired soju maker into one of the island’s representative brands.

To help the company gain ground in the region, E-mart said it will work to hire people who have roots in the island.

Meanwhile, E-mart and Jeju Island have been maintaining a close relationship, with the retailer opening three new branches there while also distributing agricultural products grown on the island across the peninsula.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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